Jeremy Powers’ first race overseas proved to be a success with a ninth-place finish at the opening World Cup in Valkenburg, and after a short return home to the US, he is ready to head back over for the second round held on November 22, on the sandy shores of Koksijde in Belgium, where he is aiming to cross the finish line inside the top 10 again.
“Koksijde is the one World Cup that I’m focussed on right now,” Powers told Cyclingnews. “It has the sand and if I could have a good ride in Koksijde I’d be really happy.”
The Rapha-Focus rider has proven his top form in the US this fall with a streak of victories in combined C2 and C1 ranked UCI races on the USA Cycling Professional Cyclo-cross (Pro CX) series, and he is leading the standings with 938 points. His most recent win was at the C1 event in Jingle Cross in Iowa on Saturday. He is also the highest ranked American rider in the UCI standings, currently in 12th place, and he attributes this success to his strict focus on ‘cross-specific training after retiring from a decade-long career in professional road racing last year.
“The training that I was doing was a lot of different stuff; core work, running, cycling and interval work,” Powers said. “I felt like my numbers were better coming into the season even though I had done less training. I had done a training camp before Nationals in January and my numbers coming into the season this fall were better than those ones. I didn’t know what that meant but I was excited to see what I could do.”
Pleasantly surprised with his wins in the US, Powers travelled to Valkenburg ready to face his main objective, to prove that he could also compete with the best in the six-race World Cup series. He is aiming to beat is best-ever World Cup finish, which was seventh place in Tabor in 2012, and to consistently finish among the top 10.
“The overall goal for the World Cup is to improve on my best,” Powers said. “There are a lot of possibilities once you start getting those kinds of results. I’ve always been continually moving up and it takes a long time with the riders that I’m going against. The World Cup is the highest, it’s the Grand Tour of cyclo-cross and a different set of riders.”
Powers was satisfied with his ninth place in Valkenburg in October, behind the likes of winner Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano), runner-up Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) and Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea), but he felt like he could have done better, noting that a bad start due to a mechanical forced him to play catch up for most of the race.
“I was confident in my ability to get a top 10 but so much happens in one hour that you have to be realistic,” Powers said. “I think it was a great ride for me and I’m looking forward to building on that. I had a flat tire at the start in Valkenburg and that set me back to 25th but to come back through the field like that was a great ride. I turned some great lap times and with a better start I can improve on that for sure.”
Having a mechanical-free start in Koksijde could make all the difference for Powers, and could even set him up to achieve higher than his best-ever seventh place at a World Cup.
“I think there is an opportunity to improve,” Powers said. “Koksijde is a really difficult race and it plays out really uniquely because of the sand and the single-file nature of how it goes, and so the start is going to be very important.”
After Koksijde this weekend, the World Cup series continues at Milton Keynes in Great Britain on November 29, Namur in Belgium on December 21, Heusden-Zolder in Belgium on December 26 and Hoogerheide in the Netherlands on January 25.
“None of these races are really good for me,” Powers said. “The Valkenburg was a great course, it was hilly and had elevation but at the end of the day there isn’t one that I think suits be really well or that I’m putting on a pedestal. I’m looking at them all as really big challenges. They all live up to the name of a World Cup and are all difficult.
“But I would like to do well in Koksijde and I heard that there will be some significant running in London, and so I’m looking forward to that test as well.”
In addition to the World Cup series, Powers is also looking further ahead to his national title defence in Austin, Texas in January. Although winning another national title is important, he said that his main end-of-season target is a strong finish at the World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic from January 31 to February 1.
“I have pumped everything into Worlds and my focus for the year is to do a great ride at the World championships,” Powers said. “The National Championship is important too but the World Championship is the one that I really want to do something at. I’ve always said that Nationals is the most important but now I look passed Nationals as setting the World Championships up to be the most important race of the season.
“If that race is frozen and fast, it is a great track for me. I’ve had some good results in Tabor. If it’s frozen, it will be a really good opportunity for me to do something in the World Championships.”